OK, so the United States might not be the most popular country in the world at the moment, thanks in no small part to the orange goblin they have elected to run the free world and the associated quasi-fascist cronies he has surrounding him like flies on shit.
But not even Donald Trump and his no-goodnik pals have managed to slow down the inexorable global takeover of US cuisine, and American food remains a surprisingly high-couture delight in continents as far-flung as Europe and yes, even Australia.
American food’s transition from guilty pleasure to gustatory high art has been a slow one, taking place over a space of years rather than months. Five to six decades ago, US cuisine was internationally considered to be without voice; an amalgamation of Italian, Spanish, Portuguese and European food styles that all curiously clashed and were ignored by foreigners who largely believed American cooking got about as complicated as McDonald’s. The more traditional and unique recipes were hidden away in America’s Deep South, where Creole staples like gumbo were landlocked national delicacies, never truly managing to catch the attention of an international stage.
Even in the ’80s, Australians still considered fast food joints and various forms of microwave cooking to be the sum total of American food styles, and chefs serving US recipes were forced to deal with the stereotype that the food they served would be chewy, cheese-heavy and strikingly artificial. It was an established understanding amongst Aussies that food from the States was basic and salt-heavy, and that the American national palette had no tuning for richness.
“In order to reach the mainstream, US-style cooking had to piggyback off a different movement altogether.”
Indeed, in order to reach the mainstream, US-style cooking had to piggyback off a different movement altogether. The American food revolution that has overtaken Australia and led to an influx of US restaurants and bars such as Newtown’s excellent Hartsyard [above] and Miss Peaches was achieved off the back of the sudden interest in ‘comfort food’ that was sparked in the early 2000s, and chefs were forced to capitalise on that trend to truly infiltrate the public consciousness.
See, some 17 years ago, there was a concerted effort by chefs to move good food away from its sniffy and pretentious reputation; to reclaim it from expensive restaurants and restore it to the people. Chefs like Anthony Bourdain and Tom Parker Bowles spearheaded such a cultural overthrow, what with their unpretentious styles and cheerfully down-to-earth mannerisms. They emphasised tasty, inexpensive and altogether minimal ingredients with strong flavours, while utilising rapid cooking times and everyday kitchen equipment. And in doing so they allowed people to feel good about what was typically considered lazy or basic food.
Thus the comfort food movement began to spread, opening the floodgates to a range of other styles – including the now popularised form of US cuisine that has so caught Australia’s imagination. That’s why American food as we know it in this country today is minimal in terms of ingredients used; why it includes such simple delights as crumbed fried chicken, and rich gumbo [above] boiled slowly in the one pot. It is US cuisine we eat when we go to Hartsyard, but it’s also part of the comfort food craze too, a natural extension of the obsession with hamburgers and starchy foodstuffs that so dominated the world almost two decades ago.
So as America continues to threaten and endanger our global political balance, becoming ever more unpopular in the process, their food shows no sign of leaving our plates. After all, it would take a lot of bad blood indeed to sour the taste of a crumbed leg of chicken in an Australian’s mouth.Write a Letter to the Editor